HYY has signed the student-driven Fossil Free HY campaign’s petition, that demands the University of Helsinki withdraw its investments in companies producing fossil fuels.
The petition emphasizes that it is irresponsible and uneconomic to support investing in the production of fossil fuels when the use of these fuels should be curbed as climate change progresses. The Fossil Free HY campaign seeks to convey the message that the University, as an influential science institution, has a duty to take into account the results of science as well as the ethical aspects of investing in its investment activities.
The demands of the petition are explained in more detail in the open letter to the university board. The letter emphasizes issues related to society, the environment and the university’s economy. In summary, climate change creates a systemic risk for investors that the University can protect its investment assets by divesting from the fossil industry – while fulfilling its responsibilities to society and beneficiaries and negatively affecting the fossil fuel industry as a whole.
The University of Helsinki is already close to meeting the objectives of the petition, as less than one percent of its investment assets are invested in companies that produce fossil fuels. The University’s Principles for Responsible Investment states that this proportion is constantly being reduced. The university has also recently announced its commitment to carbon neutrality for its investment portfolio “well before 2045”.
“The University has clearly recognized its responsibility to curb the negative environmental impact of its investment activities. Thanks to the goal of carbon neutrality, investment activity now has a climate-sustainable goal, but there is no time limit for the actions themselves. Divesting from the fossil fuel industry is the first step and it should not be delayed. When done carefully, divestment does not jeopardize other investment goals, such as financing the university” says Lotta Närhi, an environmental economics student coordinating the Fossil Free HY campaign.
Globally, more than a thousand social institutions from universities to cities and pension and insurance funds have publicly committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies. There are also several Nordic universities, such as the Universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen. HYY’s asset manager Ylva’s portfolio is also invested in listed fossil-free shares. Thus, divestment is well on its way to becoming the new standard among institutional investors.
“Our campaign team would like to hear more talk about how divestment decisions made by individual institutions can work as an example for other actors in society. They can affect the atmosphere revolving around the fossil fuel industry or even legislation. The societal and communicational value of these decisions cannot be highlighted enough. We hope this will motivate the university to make a binding divestment decision and announce an ambitious schedule for its implementation”, Närhi says.
It is justified to ask: If universities are not the forerunners of corporate responsibility, then who is? Like HYY, students, staff and alumni of the University of Helsinki can encourage the University to give up its investments in fossil fuels by signing the Fossil Free HY petition.